Steven Spielberg is, quite simply, the most successful director of all time. One can argue the various metrics to judge this, but it is still incontrovertible. His movies had made more money than anyone else’s, ever. Despite continuing debate about the artistic qualities of his work (often centered around the fact that they do well at the box office, which doesn’t sound very artistic), he has a whole shelf of awards, including three Oscars. It is thus a little surprising that Steven Spielberg’s best movie has taken this long to get to IMAX, the most cinematic of film experiences. That movie is, of course, Jaws.
It was announced last month that two of Steven Spielberg’s best, most famous, and ridiculously high-grossing movies would finally be coming to the IMAX format: Jaws and E.T. The Extraterrestrial. E.T. The Extraterrestrial will be in IMAX theaters nationwide starting August 12, while Jaws will begin in theaters on September 2. Steven Spielberg’s most shark-filled movie by a wide margin with also be released in RealD 3D. The release of these two movies in the wide-screen, massively stadium-seated format has been spearheaded by a partnership between Universal Pictures and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. Universal Pictures originally distributed both movies (and produced Jaws).
Part of the professed reason for the re-release of the films is the sheer epic scale of both. While Steven Spielberg’s Jaws takes place in a single small town in Martha’s Vineyard and nearby waters, its enormously influential underwater photography is ideal for the IMAX format. Jaws was Steven Spielberg’s second feature film as a director, after the well-received but retrospectively minor The Sugarland Express. It was adapted from a popular novel by Peter Benchley, though it discarded much of the plot in favor of stripping down the central story of Amity Island being terrorized by a great white shark. While Benchley wrote a draft of the film, he later said that only the “mechanics” of the film were his work. Happily, it is the mechanics of the film that translate the Steven Spielberg version of the film well to IMAX.
Although the Steven Spielberg adaptation of Jaws was a momentous enough film to merit it being an event when it is released in IMAX, it was also legendarily difficult to make. The production of the film was plagued with the mechanical shark (nicknamed Bruce and built after plans to train an actual great white shark were unfeasible) breaking down, and unexpected difficulties due to it being the first major film production to attempt to film on the open sea.
Even decades after their release, Steven Spielberg movies like Jaws and E.T. The Extraterrestial still have the power to create wonder in audiences, so it makes sense that they will create that much more wonder in the IMAX format. Both are movies that hold distinct places in one of the most remarkable filmmaking careers in history and are well-deserving of the IMAX treatment.